Download the Sports Idioms List & PDF Worksheets
View the updated web-version of the sports idioms list in the table below.
The idiom worksheets and games are also free to download.
- Download and print the PDFs.
- Use the materials for interactive learning activities in class.
- Students can also complete the worksheets to review or for self-study.
Sports Idiom Worksheets for ESL Students
Fun Sports Idiom Games for the Classroom
46 Idioms and Phrases About Sports
*Updated: March 2020
|Idiom / Phrase
|ace in the hole
|a hidden strength or advantage
|They'll win the game since their rookie goalkeeper is an ace in the hole.
|call the shots
|make the decisions
|The new coach is calling the shots.
|donate money or time
|Why don't you chip in and support the refugees?
|down to the wire
|to the end
|The game is coming down to the wire and nobody has scored.
|favorite to win
|The stallion is the front runner. He'll be hard to beat.
|get a head start
|start before others
|Don always gets a head start and wakes up at dawn.
|get a second wind
|have new energy after an attempt
|I was exhausted after 3 kilometres of running, but I got a second wind after I passed the beach.
|get into the full swing
|be comfortable doing something after some time
|It took her a month to get into the full swing of things. Now she is the best employee.
|give it your best shot
|try your hardest
|I know the homework is difficult but give it your best shot.
|give someone a fair shake
|give someone a chance
|He never got a fair shake. He got fired after a week.
|give someone a run for their money
|try hard to defeat another person
|Connor is going to give Floyd a run for his money.
|go to bat for someone
|His colleague went to bat for her and testified on her behalf.
|three goals by one player
|Ronaldo scored several hat tricks last season.
|have the upper hand
|have a better chance of winning
|The experienced boxer has the upper hand.
|hit a snag
|face a sudden problem
|We've hit a snag. I don't think we can finish it on time now.
|hit below the belt
|do something that is unfair
|You hit me below the belt when you said that lie about me.
|hold all the aces
|expected to win
|The home team holds all the aces. I don't think the other team will win.
|hot shot or big shot
|very confident or successful person
|All the hot shots in New York live on the Upper East Side.
|jump the gun
|begin too soon
|If you jump the gun then you may make a mistake. Go at your own pace.
|keep your head above water
|try not to fall behind
|It's hard to keep your head above water when you are already down by 3 goals.
|learn the ropes
|learn new things
|I spend the whole morning learning the ropes for the job.
|level playing field
|The team leveled the playing field after the penalty kick.
|difficult thing to accomplish
|It will be a long shot to finish in the top three positions.
|make the cut
|chosen to be part of a group
|I don't think I made the cut. Other people will probably get hired instead.
|neck and neck
|The race cars were neck and neck until the end.
|Sara said it would be no sweat to finish the assignment on time.
|not playing with a full deck
|lower mental ability
|George isn't playing with a full deck. He forgot to wear his socks.
|not up to par
|not good enough
|If you're not up to par by the end of the month, you're fired.
|on the ball
|ready and able
|I'm on the ball today. I finished everything before lunch.
|out in left field
|strange or unconventional
|His response was so way out in left field that everyone couldn't stop laughing.
|out of my league
|not as good as someone else
|She's way out of my league. There's no way she'll go out with me.
|settle a score
|It's time to settle the score. I'm sick of losing against these guys.
|shot in the dark
|It was a shot in the dark, but her answer was correct.
|skate on thin ice
|do something risky
|He was skating on thin ice when he insulted the boss.
|start the ball rolling
|Let's get the ball rolling and start with some ice breakers.
|step up to the plate
|Yuna is going to step up to the plate and admit that her team's decision was wrong.
|take the bull by the horns
|attempt the challenge
|Let's take the bull by the horse and get started on the project.
|take the wind out of my sails
|to feel deflated
|You really took the wind out of my sails when you laughed at my new invention.
|the ball is in your court
|the decision is up to you
|We offered him an extra million dollars. The ball is in his court if he wants to sign the contract.
|the home stretch
|near the end
|We're on the home stretch now. We'll be there in a few minutes.
|throw in the towel
|Rocky never threw in the towel during his fighting career.
|Can we take a time out and work on this later in the afternoon?
|to be off base
|not making a fair statement
|Mandy was off base when she said that I needed a hair transplant to get the acting role.
|under the table
|concealed or by secret
|We should keep this under the table until we know it's safe to tell everyone.
|win hands down
|The team one hands down because their opponents had three red cards.
|either win or lose
|In the playoffs, overtime is a zero-sum game. Only one team can win.
Extra Examples of Sports Idioms in Use
Do you want to read more examples and sentences with sports idioms?
Try entering the expressions in a corpus database or language app.
We highly recommend the following corpus resources and tools:
Watch on YouTube: Sports Idioms English Lesson
View more Idioms and Phrases on ESL Expat
- Animal Idioms
- Body Idioms
- Cat Idioms
- Clothing Idioms
- Color Idioms
- Dog Idioms
- Food Idioms
- Love Idioms
- Money Idioms
- Time Idioms
- Weather Idioms